Television of Minimal Pleasure: My Obsession With House Hunters

While you might see me out on the street being an asshole on my bike or at a show being awkward, there is something that I spend considerably more of my time doing than either of those things: watching House Hunters and House Hunters International.

If you are not familiar with these shows, let me give you a basic rundown. The show has five acts. The first act of the show involves you meeting the family/person/broseph/brosephs that are looking for a place to buy. Given the general demographics of who watches HGTV (the channel that airs the program), you can get a pretty good idea of who you will be dealing with. While some of them are totally rad like the brosephs from Canada that bought in Medellin, Columbia or the Danish guy who bought in the Caribbean, the average family is from either Florida or somewhere in the Midwest, between 30-45, of moderately high income as they are buying a house in this market, probably has kids that they spend too much time worrying about, and are completely insufferable, irritating people. That last part will become clear as I explain further.

After they’ve made you want to turn the channel by introducing the buyer, they have a lovely montage of where the family is going to buy a house. This is usually pretty cool, especially on HHI when people are moving to cool areas like the Caribbean, provincial France, or Hong Kong. In what can only be a totally staged shot, the viewer sees the family meet the realtor and tell them what they are looking for. This is where the agitation sets in usually. The buyers list off a series of really absurd demands for what they want for their space then give a budget that is not large enough for what they want. This is usually reinforced by the cutaway to the real estate agent who says, more or less, “Who do these assholes think they are? Have they ever set foot in this country before? Oh my god, I hate my job so much.”

The next act involves the realtor taking the buyers to the first house. The buyers look around it and sometimes actually enjoy what they see, but usually they don’t and it’s for one of the following three reasons.

1) Because the kitchen is out of date. While this is a real concern, most of their complaints are because of the countertops being laminate or something that’s not marble or granite not the appliances. It’s, literally, an aesthetic thing. I’d much rather have a stainless steel countertop. It won’t wear and it’ll make my kitchen way easier to clean. That’s preference though.

2) Their is something dangerous for their kids. I don’t know about other people, but my mom certainly didn’t show this much concern in raising me. I’m still firmly of the belief that kids are soft now because they never had to fuck up or lose for that matter. Part of being a kid is getting scraped up, cutting your leg up (did that on a field trip at nine), bruising, general shenanigans. As well, it’s realizing that you’re not awesome at everything, but that’s not related to a house search. If your kid was stupid enough to walk into a corner, s/he’ll learn that it sucks and won’t do it again. There’s no reason to not choose a house because of something like that. Your kids aren’t going to be kids forever unless they are little people then that granite countertop hitting them in the eye will be an eternal problem.

3) The house actually has a personality. I cannot articulate to you how many times I’ve watched people walk up to a house that isn’t white, off-white or beige and go, I really hate the color of this house. I should also point out that they are also in tropical areas where, literally, every other house color is a variant of pink, blue or yellow. This extends to the inside of the house where if the room actually has a decent color or is generally whimsical in spirit, the buyer says fuck this house.

So, this process continues for the next two acts while the realtor attempts to keep their shit together and avoid stabbing these people in the eye. After looking at their three options, there is an unncessary fifth act where the buyers walk around and, essentially, repeat the same things that they said while looking at the house then make their decision. The show then fast forwards a random amount of time (it has ranged from 3 days to 6 months in recent episodes), and we see the family living in the house. They’ve, usually, done a spiritless interior design on their home and love it.

After 794 words of slagging this show (I have a word counter on here, so that number isn’t random), you might be wondering why I submit myself to watching this show. Surprisingly, there are a number of reasons. I’ll start with the positive ones first. I like to see the foreign locales. Being a broke youth in America, it gives me a better sense of where I might want to go later in my life when I can make it rain at the fundraising dinner. As well, I like house architecture. We all need somewhere to live, so it’s interesting to see how they build houses around the globe and to find out what’s most important to them.

Into less positive territory, I like to check out the real estate agents. Sometimes, they are certainly dicking their clients over and not looking out for their best interests. I saw one recently with a guy that has 8 kids, and she only showed him houses with 2 bedrooms. You can’t fit 9 people in a two-bedroom house and it not be a throwback to tenement days in 1920s New York. Other times, they are totally focused and awesome at what they do, finding a house that meets their clients needs. I’ve found that the real estate agent’s attractiveness is directly related to how good they are at meeting their client’s needs. I saw one with all ladies. While the buyers were not particularly attractive, the real estate agent was totally on point, both in terms of her body (she was so hot) and her ability to please her clients’s needs.

Additionally, it’s fun to watch the frustration grow in the eyes of the real estate agent as the client complains about the most inane, microscopic things in the house. If their job wasn’t predicated on the exchange of large sums of money, I imagine that at least 30 of the realtors on this show would have kirked out on their clients.

My real pleasure from this show comes in playing a personal game with it. Since these people are really transparent, it’s really easy to figure out how they think and what they are looking for, a system that is made easier by the fact that they feel a compulsion to verbalize everything. So, after you know their needs and see the houses, the game is to figure out which house they are going to buy. Sometimes, you’ll get surprised, but usually you’re right because these people are disturbingly easy to read.

So, for as much as I hate this show, I can’t turn away. It’s addictive and compelling. I hate myself every minute I watch it, but I can’t stop. Given my love of trashy television, it takes a lot for me to say that I hate watching something. In the end, House Hunters is visual meth. It doesn’t improve my life, ruins my teeth (because I grind them in anger), makes me lose my hair, and I can’t live without it.

About the Author

I run a radio show called the chrysanthemum sound system. It airs @ 10p-12a on Thursdays on KRUI and features anything and everything. I write On The Beat in Little Village Magazine. I won on The Smartest Iowan. You can find me either in your basement, on the street, @acethoughts (Twitter) or (Google+)

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